If someone had asked me at 16 years old, when I was thinking of applying to the Sutton Trust Summer School, where I would be in eight years’ time it definitely wouldn’t be working for the University of St Andrews running the Sutton Trust Summer School. But here I am, and I enjoy every second of it!
Looking back to 2010, the Summer School itself helped me realise what studying at university would really be like. I studied biology and got to take part in both lectures and practical labs, something I never had the opportunity to do before. It helped me realise that biology was definitely the subject for me and I now had the skills to do it. I knew that I did want to go to university, but I started to worry that I did not know how to finance my degree, and this was initially a barrier to me applying. The Sutton Trust Summer School talked me through the different finance options and pointed me in the right direction. They explained to me basic things such as the difference between bursaries, scholarships and loans as well as how to apply for financial support, which at 16 is a terrifying prospect. This advice and support was invaluable. It made the idea of attending university less scary and most importantly it made me realise that a university like St Andrews was for people like me. Everyone was so friendly and supportive – I knew I would fit in here.
I graduated in 2015 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry having also worked as a student ambassador on various widening participation projects during my time at St Andrews. This led to me securing a gradate job in admissions and three years later, now co-managing all our widening participation programmes at St Andrews.
Managing these programmes both locally and nationally at St Andrews is an amazing opportunity, I get to work with pupils throughout their educational journey and into higher education. Watching these pupils fulfil their potential and reach their chosen destination is very rewarding. It has also given me the opportunity to contribute and effect change in the widening access landscape in Scotland, something that I never thought I’d be able to do.
I believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to attend university regardless of social-economic background or circumstances. If it weren’t for programmes like the Sutton Trust Summer School working in partnership with universities like St Andrews, which raise aspirations and breakdown barriers to access higher education, many pupils including myself wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities and I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.